The basic estate plan consists of four different documents. Although an estate plan can be as complicated as it needs to be, the groundwork for most estate plans include these documents. No matter how old you are or what your personal situation is, if you are at least 18 years old, you should have the basic documents that are included in an estate plan.
A Will– With this document you can leave instructions that include who should inherit your assets and personal property, as well what each person should get. You will also name the person that you would like to act as executor of your will, and if you have children you can name a guardian for those children in your will. If you do not have a will, the Surrogate Court will decide all of this, and those that inherit may not be whom you would have chosen if you’d had a will.
A Durable Power of Attorney – With this document you will name someone that will have the power to act on your behalf if something should happen that prevents you from handling your legal and financial affairs on your own. Most often this would be if you were to become incapacitated for some reason.
Health Care Proxy – This document names someone that can make medical decisions for you if you are incapable of making those decisions yourself. For example, if you were in an accident and unconscious, your Health Care Proxy agent can make decisions regarding your treatment until such time that you can communicate with medical personnel.
A Living Will – If you have a Living Will you can leave instruction on what type of care you would like. In most cases this would cover end of life treatment and life support. If you do not want to be kept alive by artificial means, this is where you would include instructions concerning this issue.
Not everyone needs a complicated estate plan, but everyone does need the basic estate plan